Some of you might be wondering a little bit about who owns Berry Quilt & Co. Well let me fill you in a bit….
My name is Sharon Thomson. Occasionally its Sharon Nicholls-Thomson. (This is when I enter competitions so that my maiden name doesn’t miss out on all the fun.) I’m a quilter and teacher in my 40s with a youngish family; a lovely husband and three daughters under 13. I’ve been sewing and quilting since my early teens when I made myself patchwork shorts and t-shirt from my mother’s scraps and wore them down the street to buy an ice-cream. I wish I had a photo of that!! Well… maybe I don’t actually!
I love all styles of quilting, embroidery, sewing, textile arts and … in fact I don’t think I’ve ever met a craft that I haven’t had a go at! I’m a member of our local Berry Spinners & Weavers but I have to admit that I’m not a regular at meetings now that I have a day job. I still have a loom set up in the lounge room where I do a few rows every now and again and my spinning wheels get occasional work outs. I love knitting and crochet and I even used to have a knitting blog when my kids where much younger. This blog is still online at The Stripey Tiger where I left it.
My background and initial university qualification was a Bachelor of Art Education, a high school art teaching degree. I then went on to complete a masters degree in Arts Administration. After that, I worked for many years in the contemporary crafts area for Craft Australia, the now defunct peak representative body for contemporary crafts practitioners, CraftWest in Perth and The Glass Artists Gallery in Glebe, Sydney as well as a super funky boutique antique, collectables and fine art auction house in Sydney called Wemyss.
In all of these roles I worked on various marketing and communication style projects, some of which were all about retailing high end crafts. I also managed and toured Australia-wide exhibitions both for the not profit organisations and for the commercial gallery I worked in. I did quite a bit of teaching in all those roles and there was loads of public programs style communication with audiences.
More recently, since I’ve lived in Berry 2 hours south of Sydney, I’ve worked taught for and worked with Liz at Berry Patchwork. It’s been about 5 years now and I know the business and its clients pretty well. I live close by and have had lots of lovely feedback about the changeover which is encouraging.
I’ve taught everything at Berry Patchwork from hand piecing, EEP and appliqué to how to follow patterns for all styles of quilts. I think my strength as a teacher is encouraging the tentative student by teaching basic skills that give a foundation and confidence to build on and unlock their own creativity. I particularly enjoy helping people design and make their own quilts on their own terms, for their own purpose, with their own rules. The satisfaction I get from seeing students complete things that they never thought they could is immeasurable!
My own quilting work is very eclectic. I do everything from appliqué to english paper piecing which I have always loved, to really simple machine piecing. I enjoy making the whole quilt myself from start to finish and whilst I can machine quilt, I much prefer hand quilting my bed quilts. Recently, I’ve been concentrating on developing my own art practice and am making smaller experimental wall pieces with a strong improvisational and design focus. I was very excited that one of these pieces won third place at the recent Quilt NSW Annual Quilt Challenge. You can see this piece, ‘White Light’ on their website.
Over the fast few years I’ve run a craft workshop mini-business with my friends Paulina Collier and Alison Burgess of the Berry Tea Shop called Craftea. Our Craftea Facebook account shows a little of what we used to get up to. This was great fun and I look forward to running similar nights at Berry Quilt & Co. I have also been running various craft and creative workshops from my own home under the name Marmalade Hill. There is a website for Marmalade Hill enterprises that you might be interested in looking at too.
I like thinking about art, design, crafts and how they overlap. I was very lucky to be asked by Elizabeth Dubbelde to give a talk at the Berry Quilting Retreat dinner in 2015. I spoke there about quilts that I had begun to see around the place that were presented with their seams facing the audience not the other way around as we are all used to seeing. I talked about the beauty that is often hidden inside quilts and what the makers were meaning when they chose to work in this way. Making this speech was great fun and I relished the opportunity to organise my ideas that way and chat to others about it. Feel free to make contact with me if you have any interesting ideas about quilts that you want to chat about.. I’m always up for a bit of a ‘quilt theory’ chat.
So there you go… I know this post is VERY long and if you have got this far …you might see that when you think about it… all my previous work experience and all my lovely hobby pursuits seem to be nicely joined together in this new opportunity to own and organise my own retail space and creative hub. I’m already enjoying this time getting things ready and look forward to getting into the shop, playing with fabric all day and meeting you all when you come to visit. xxx Sharon